Author Archives: mpdenton

Logjam…

…in the AFC.  Normally, this space is where the Blowhard would comment on the most recent New England Patriots game.  However, despite the 43-40 win against the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and all the good (and bad) that came from it, we have not actually seen the game.

WHAAAAAAAAAT???!!

Yup, but we had a good reason…attending Game Two of the Boston Red Sox game against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park that very same night.  Aaaaaand…haven’t had the chance to watch the replay or highlights or anything else.

I know…pathetic.  But…

So we can really only give some very generic thoughts here.  And of course, we will do that!!

Here’s the summary:

The Patriots defense stinks.

Done.

Other than that…one thing to note about the KC/NE game is that it just tightened up the race for the top.  If the Chiefs won that game, they would be 6-0 and two games up on everyone else in the conference.  The Pats would be 3-3 and in the middle of a slew of other teams in the AFC.

Now?  Nope.  Not only are the Chiefs 5-1 and the Pats right behind them at 4-2 (with of course the tiebreaker).  But the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are also 4-2.  The Steelers have rebounded to 3-2-1.  And the Jets (?!), Titans, Texans (?!) and the Jaguars are still in the mix at 3-3.

Yes, it appears that teams like the Jets, Texans and Dolphins are fraud teams.  Probably the Titans too.  But…this is the NFL.  So I guess you never know.

The Ravens appear to be the only team in the NFL to have some semblance of a defense.  But they haven’t exactly played the iron of the league as of yet.  No one else seems to be able to stop anyone.  Guess that makes sense.  Why?  No one can touch the quarterback anymore.  Nor the receivers.  Now we have this ridiculous roughing the passer rules.  “Can’t put your whole body weight on the QB…”  What the F does that mean?  And what the hell happened to the Jaguars.  THEY were supposed to have an elite defense.  Guess not.

I don’t even know where I am going with this.  Just needed to write something I guess.

Let’s just say this:  The Patriots may well still be the cream of the crop in the AFC, despite the fact that their defense is atrocious.  That’s what it kind of all comes down to.

As for the start of Week Seven:

Denver (-2.5) at Arizona

One may have thought that the continuously putrid Thursday Night Football games over the years may have finally turned a corner with the exciting Week 4 matchup between the Vikings and Rams.  Maybe even the Week 3 tilt between the Browns and Jets, where Baker Mayfield introduced himself to the world.  Nope.  Pats/Indy in Week 5 and Eagles/Giants in Week 6 followed.  Now we have this mess.  I bet the Broncos are glad they gave all that money to Case Keenum now.  Plus the coaching hire of Vance Joseph seems to be working out great.  That all being said…

Denver 27, Arizona 16.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  11-4

Season (against the spread):  46-47

Season (straight up):  56-37

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Week Six…

Speed round…again…

Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) at Cleveland

Cleveland is clearly improved.  2-0-1 at home.  But the Chargers are better.  1.5 doesn’t seem like enough.

Los Angeles Chargers 30, Cleveland 23.

Buffalo at Houston (-7.5)

All five of Houston’s games have been decided by 7 points or less.  Three by three points.  Buffalo ain’t great and is on the road.  But the feeling is they may keep it close.

Houston 24, Buffalo 18.

Carolina at Washington (-1.5) 

The ‘Skins have been playing well every other week.  This is the good one.

Washington 27, Carolina 24.

Chicago (-3.5) at Miami

Are the Bears for real?  Looks like they could be.  I know Miami isn’t and this will put them back to 3-3 after that phony 3-0 start.

Chicago 24, Miami 17.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (-2.5)

Speaking of fraud teams, the Bengals can’t be as good as 4-1, can they?!  Two words:  Marvin Lewis.  That should answer your question.

Pittsburgh 41, Cincinnati 34.

Seattle (-3.5) at Oakland

Jon Gruden probably should have stayed in the booth after being away from the game for a decade.  Then again, we can’t expect him to perform miracles with this Raiders team in his first year.

Seattle 27, Oakland 13.

Indianapolis at New York Jets (-2.5) 

Snoozefest.  I guess the Jets will be missing their top two corners and possibly the guy that ran for 200 plus yards last week.  This will not help.

Indianapolis 31, New York Jets 17.

Arizona at Minnesota (-10.5)

Disappointing year for the Vikes thus far, but Arizona appears to be wretched this year, last week’s win against the possibly equally wretched 49ers notwithstanding.

Minnesota 34, Arizona 10.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3.5) 

I’m not sure how good the Falcons actually are, but I’m fairly certain they should be better than 1-4.  I also think they are better than the Bucs.  At least in their home stadium.

Atlanta 31, Tampa Bay 27.

Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) at Denver

The Rams look unstoppable.  That’s all.

Los Angeles Rams 45, Denver 24.  

Baltimore (-2.5) at Tennessee 

This one may be another snoozefest.  But at least the teams involved are better than the other one we spoke about earlier.

Baltimore 20, Tennessee 17.

Jacksonville (-3.5) at Dallas

Blake Bortles was brutal last week.  And he sucks anyway.  But Dallas sucks more.  Similar to Marvin Lewis, I have no idea how Jason Garrett has hung on so long there.

Jacksonville 34, Dallas 16.  

Kansas City at New England (-3.5)  

Neither defense should stop either offense.  But with all the weapons the Chiefs have, I have no idea how the Pats cover all of them.  KC has had some big wins against the Pats in the middle of the regular season in recent years too.  But the Patriots have also come out of the woodwork in games like this and shut a young QB down…especially in Foxborough.  If the Pats lose, they will find themselves down by 3 games already in the AFC in the race for home-field advantage.  They have risen to the occasion before.  That all being said, I wish I could pick them here, but I simply can’t.

Kansas City 45, New England 34.

San Francisco at Green Bay (-9.5)

Boy, did the Niners season go right down the tubes once Jimmy Football got injured.

Green Bay 37, San Francisco 13.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  38-41

Season (straight up):  46-33

David Price…

…simple as that.

Nope, I am not just copying the post from right before the previous series against the New York Yankees, though this may seem to be the case.

It’s just that this time a different starting pitcher may now be the key to the Boston Red Sox’ success in the American League Championship Series.

Last round, we talked about Chris Sale.  Though Sale wasn’t quite at the level we know he can get to, he was pretty good in Game One.  We all likely wondered how he would look the second time around in Game Five, but I think we are also all glad it didn’t get to that point.  Most importantly, the fact that Sale was able to come out in the eighth inning of Game Four and mow the side down on 13 pitches was hopefully pretty telling.  That he was able to bounce back nicely in between starts and would be even more good to go for his next one.  Hopefully.

That leaves us with the Sox’ other “ace”, David Price.  A disaster in Game Two at Fenway against the Yanks, he is now again slated for Game Two against the Houston Astros.  Mistake?  Perhaps.

We all know the postseason numbers, 0-9 in 10 starts, ERA over 6.00…yada, yada, yada.  Embarrassing for a pitcher of his caliber…and of course at his current salary level.

Can it change?  Can Price finally do something right in a start and be a “hero”?  Get the hometown fans on his side for once?

I deem that unlikely.  I would say most others do as well.

In addition to the poor career postseason stats, Price himself came up with some other beauties this year.  He can’t pitch in the cold…his fingers get tingly.  Or do they get tingly because of the carpal tunnel, from which he laughably says playing video games don’t affect that?  Sure buddy.  Then there was some stuff about being allergic to dogs or grass or something.  Honestly, the guy is such an arseclown that I’ve lost track of all the excuses.

Let’s face it, Price has to take a start in this series.  Because if he doesn’t, are you giving that one to Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez or Drew Pomeranz?  No thanks.  Eduardo Rodriguez perhaps, but are we at the point where he can’t really give you a ton of innings now since he hasn’t started much in recent weeks?  I don’t know, but something to think about.  Either way, wouldn’t it be better to give Price only ONE start, say Game Four?  That way, since he actually has a good track record of pitching well in relief in the postseason, maybe he can throw a few innings in Game Seven, should the series get there.  Also, Houston will be warmer for him, though admittedly the dimensions of that field, as opposed to Fenway, may be a worse scenario for him.  But still…

This is not to say that Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello are better pitchers than Price.  They are not, though they both pitched well against New York in the Division Series.  But Porcello doesn’t necessarily have a sterling postseason career record either.  And Eovaldi has only that one playoff start to his credit.  A great one, but just that one nonetheless.  But they maybe should have priority in the ALCS because they are quite simply pitching better NOW.

I suppose, either way, manager Alex Cora is going to do plenty of mixing and matching with his pitching staff all series long.  Starters pitching in relief and all that.  Anything to get outs.  Unless you want to see Joe Kelly in a close game, that is.  Which absolutely no one wants.  Except for the opposition.

So maybe it all doesn’t matter?  We’ll see…but with Price having to potentially make two starts in this series is concerning.  And he better not lay two more eggs.  That makes him a huge key to the series.

Since it seems that all we do in this space is make predictions, let’s see how things stack up on paper for the teams:

Lineup:

The Red Sox top four of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are pretty damn good.  But are the Astros’ top four of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel even better?  Could be.  But let’s call it a wash.  The rest of the lineup?  Astros all the way.  Looks like 5-7 is some combination of Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick.  None of those guys have performed like they did in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series.  Correa has been hurt of course.  But wouldn’t you still take these guys over the Sox’ 5-7 of Steve Pearce/Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez/Rafael Devers and Ian Kinsler/Brock Holt?  I would.  Top it off with anyone the Astros throw out there at 8-9 will be better offensively than Jackie Bradley Jr. and whoever the catcher is.  Looks to me like the Astros have the edge here top to bottom.

Defense:

Not going to spend a lot of time here because I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of Houston Astros games to know specific defensive skill sets.  But on a macro level…at catcher, while Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez can certainly handle the defense for the Sox, Martin Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year, for whatever that’s worth.  If Pearce, Holt and Devers are out there, the Sox infield defense probably pales in comparison to the ‘Stros.  Though, I know, Holt is good enough at second.  The outfield most certainly goes to the Sox.  Sssssooo…an edge here either way?  I’m not sure there is one.

Starting pitching:

Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton against Sale, Price, Eovaldi and Porcello.  Can’t be any debate here.  At first, I was thinking Astros by a mile.  But at a deeper glance, it’s probably closer than we think.  Sale and Verlander are probably a wash.  Cole a huge gap over Price.  But the other four could go either way.  Though Morton was sensational last year in the playoffs.  So you kind of have to give the edge to Houston here, no doubt.

Relief pitching:

We have written (and spoken) ad nauseam about the Red Sox’ bullpen woes.  And now their closer has had problems getting people out.  With Lance McCullers likely in the ‘pen for the ‘Stros, along with Collin McHugh and Ryan Pressly, who seemed to have been lights out, there are some strong middle guys right off the top.  Add in some other useful pieces such as Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith before you get to Roberto Osuna, now you’re talking.  Although Osuna is apparently a piece of crap in real life and the Sox have had success against him in the past, how does he look compared to Craig Kimbrel at this very moment?  Shoot, it looks like the Astros don’t even have Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Brad Peacock on their active roster for this series.  And those guys have been pretty valuable over the years.  Landslide here for Houston.

Coaching:  

People locally have been acting like Cora and A.J. Hinch are equals.  But didn’t Hinch’s team win the World Series last year?  Yes, with Cora’s help of course.  But still.  And though Cora has done a great job with the Sox this year, this is still his first year managing anywhere, so also we need to remember it is his first foray into the postseason.  We all saw first-time manager Aaron Boone puke on himself in the ALDS.  Who is to say Cora doesn’t do the same in the ALCS?  I’m not saying he will, but we have to consider the possibility for sure.  Hinch has been there.  Cora has not…as a head guy.  That counts.

Adding it all up?  What it says “on paper” to me is Houston in five.  That’s what the Blowhard is going with.  Hope the Sox make it closer of course.  And if they can get it back to Fenway for Games Six and/or Seven, maybe things go their way.  And that’s why they play the games…

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